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Published on 31 Aug 2017

VivaTech 2017 took place in June. A global event, held in Paris, dedicated to startups, tech-lovers and pioneers of the future. This year, we were part of it. We handled the video contribution and the streaming of the world premiere Drone Race for PMU Lab. With distant drone pilots, operating from a remote master control room. That brought us to write down few thoughts on what impact are drones having and are likely to have on the world of media?

Shooting from the sky

Filming from the sky with a drone is not the future but more accurately the recent past. Just like Steadicams, drones have opened a new world to filmmakers and video producers. Drones can go where humans simply can’t. More accurately, drones can shoot where humans on a budget cannot. Instead of booking a plane or a helicopter, or any other expensive means to shoot from the air, drones are easily portable and are way less costly. But this is not only about cost savings, it’s also about the uniqueness of the result. Drones are obviously way smaller than helicopters and can go where helicopters cannot, without risking everyone’s life at least. We have all seen great footage from drones.

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It’s no wonder  drones shipments are predicted to reach 800,000 in 2021 versus 100,000 in 2016. The number of companies offering drone-based services is also on the rise.

Having said that, filming with a drone is not just playing with a cute toy to collect nice pictures. This is a complex, skilled job, which requires following new recommendations (or adjusting existing ones). For example, you need three people while shooting: a pilot, a camera operator and an observer (for security.)

Of course there are also limitations. Flying time is usually limited to 15 minutes, so you are not going to shoot the many, many hours a cricket match takes, for example. And you don’t send your drone to film a tornado if you want it to return!

4K images from drones

Can a drone shoot 4K images? Well, it would be a shame to fly like a bird and send back only SD images! It depends on the camera used, and if you end up choosing a 4K, model, you’ll certainly get 4K images. The issue is weight relative to the size of the drone. You could choose between GoPro, DLSR or the camera built-in to the drone, as long as the drone is designed to support the weight of that specific camera. You can go with almost any camera but ask the operator first rather than making assumptions. There are drones that can support over 20 kg but they come at a price: they can easily cost over US$20,000.

A drone to shoot 360° VR images?

Isn’t it obvious? You are in the sky, “droning” like a bird: you want 360° pictures! Good news again as it’s possible. One of the most impressive drones in that respect is the Flying EYE 360 VR drone. Look at some images that were captured from it. There are more suppliers every day with the market moving quickly. Expect significant updates and improvements with new models on the market.

A drone to stream from the sky

Last but not least: can you stream from the directly from a drone? Short answer: Yes! There will be some impressive streaming on the 15th, 16th and 17th of June at VivaTech 2017. PMU Lab is broadcasting and streaming a world premiere: a drones race from the Longchamp Racecourse.

DroneRace VivaTech

picture – courtesy of PMULab

So you can stream, but the limitations will depend on your drone. Loading on the camera, the encoder and the transmitter can become pretty heavy. But some drones do allow live streaming.

Flying restrictions

Before working with drones, it is highly advisable to check out the possible restrictions governing drone flights in your country. These do vary from country-to-country and also between recreational use and professional.

And this is just the beginning as drones will also have impacts on the sports business. But we’ll talk about that later. Meanwhile, if you want to know more about drone filming, you should read the superb Drone filming section from the BBC Academy.

You can see the replay of the PMU drone race on our TwitterFacebook or YouTube.